the beginning of the end

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

the horrors of war realized through the eyes of a little girl.

Submitted: November 04, 2017

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Submitted: November 04, 2017



It was a September afternoon in 1941 in a small village in western Poland.  Eight year -old Hannah Heimburg was walking home from school on her normal route just as she always did on school days.  She was accompanied by her brother, sixteen year-old Jacob and her sister, thirteen year-old Marta.  Their respective days at school were uneventful as they all discussed as they walked along.  Hannah, the dreamer of the family, walked aimlessly along listening to her siblings as they discussed some subject her young mind did not find any interest in.  She was lost in her own thoughts as her and her siblings turned the corner of the street where their home was located. 

“What is going on?” Jacob questioned as he and his sister Marta ceased their conversation to watch in wonderment at the events taking place on their street.

“I do not know,” Marta responded as she looked on in confusion.

Hannah, meanwhile, was staring at the group of men in uniforms gathered right in front of their home her siblings had yet to lay eyes upon.  The men were shouting out orders and appeared to be very forceful with the guns they held in their hands.  To Hannah’s horror one of the men was grabbing her grandmama and grandpapa.  He was yelling at them to hurry up while pushing them along to make his point.

“Look,” Hannah said pointing to her grandparents, “That soldier is being mean to Grandmama and Grandpapa.”

It was at this moment that Jacob and Marta, being older and more understanding of what was going on in their country, realized their lives as they knew it were about to change.  Jacob gathered his sisters close to him and they all proceeded to their home and the chaos that was ensuing. 

The Germans had come to Poland two years prior.  The Jews of Poland were forced to wear yellow stars sewed onto their clothing so when in public everyone would recognize them.  It was a shameful thing Papa Heimburg would say to his children, but if that is all that they had to deal with then they should count themselves as lucky.  On this September afternoon the Heimburg children did not feel lucky.  They were frightened by the events taking place before them and they were confused by the behavior of the soldiers.  Hannah’s family followed all of the rules so why were the soldiers there at their home?  Why did it look to her and her siblings as though their family was in trouble?As the children reached their home, their mother was there waiting for them with their little brother, four year-old Ivan.

000rrrrrrr“Ah children you are finally home,” Mama said. “We are moving to a new place by order of the soldiers.  You must gather only what you can carry and do it quickly.  The soldiers will not tolerate anything that would be seen as defiance.”

“But Mama,” Marta began.

“No, Marta, do not argue with me.  We do not have much time please hurry,” Mama responded with a look of sadness on her face.

“Where is Papa?” Hannah asked looking around for her father.

“He is already waiting for us at the train station,” explained her mother as she ushered her children into the house to gather their belongings. “Please get whatever means the most to you, Hannah, and do not dally as you always do.  We do not have the time for your dreamy ways.”

The Heimburg family quickly gathered what they could carry while the soldiers watched their every move carefully.  The street was lined with trucks that had large open beds in the back.  As the family exited their home for the last time, they witnessed as several other Jewish families had already begun piling into the trucks.  The Heimbugs were directed at gunpoint to the truck waiting right outside their front door.  The young soldier directing them had the meanest look on his face.  That look would haunt Hannah in later times. The family was put on the truck with two other families and once all the trucks were full of passengers the caravan set off.

“You said we were going to meet Papa at the train station, but why are we going to the train station, Mama?” Hannah questioned her mother.  Her mother, grandparents, and Jacob all exchanged a look. It was her grandpapa who responded to her question.

“We are taking the train to our new home.  It is some distance away from here so we have to take the train,” he explained with a pained expression in his eyes.  His wife began to sob quietly, while his daughter-in-law just gathered her children closer to her as if the thought of letting them go was more than she could possibly bring herself to do. 

Hannah’s family could not to tell her what was really going on.  They could not bear to reveal to her the horrors they all had heard stories about since the Germans and Soviets had come to Poland in 1939.  They yearned to keep her innocence present for as long as they possibly could.  All too soon little Hannah would become older than she had any right to do so early in her young life.

Despite her dreamy tendencies towards life, Hannah was an observant little girl.  She could see and sense that her life and the lives her family members had drastically changed on that afternoon.  What that change was and how greatly it would affect all of them was not yet in her realm of thought, but the shadow of its impending doom was hanging over her and would very soon make itself known to her.  The enormity of this change would catapult Hannah into a life that even a farm animal should not be forced to live.

The caravan of trucks arrived at the train station.  The businessmen of the small village were already there waiting on their respective families with the ever watchful eye of even more soldiers with guns.  Guns they did not hesitate to use if needed which Hannah and her family witnessed on their street.  Her papa was waiting with a relieved look in his eyes to see that his entire family was still intact. 

Everyone was instructed to exit the trucks and wait in a family group for the train to arrive.  All of the families gathered together and lined up as they were told to do.  Though not an order from the soldiers, each member of each family stood with their eyes cast down not daring to look upon the soldiers.  Hannah was doing the same, but her need to observe was great and she managed to glance around even with her downcast eyes.  It was in this manner she saw the general arrive.

  The general, a very severe and haughty looking man silently walked up and down the groups of nervous and scared families.  He gazed at each face as he made his slow progression up and down the line.  As he reached Hannah’s family he stopped and stared at first Hannah’s mother and then at Hannah as though he is really seeing them.  He looked Hannah’s mother up and down a small smile on his lips.  His gaze then took in young Hannah.  With just one finger from his hand, he placed it under Hannah’s chin forcing her to look up at his face.  The general gave Hannah a long look, dropped his finger from her face, and began his slow assessment again.

“What is he doing and where is our new home going to be?’ Hannah whispers to her papa.

“Hush child,” her father replied, but his efforts to quiet her are too late.  The general stopped and turned sharply to stare at Hannah and her father.  Mr. Heimburg knew the general had heard Hannah’s inquiry, but to his amazement he did not act on this obvious sign of impertinence from Hannah.  The general continued on down the line acting as if nothing had transpired with the Heimburg family.

Not a word is ever uttered by the general during his inspection of the families gathered in apprehensive huddles.  He just simply walked the line several times and then waited for the train just as the families and his soldiers were doing.

The train arrived at the station.  Hannah noted, as the train rolled into the station, that it was not one of those passenger trains with all of the nice pretty cars that people can sit in and look out the windows at the scenery passing by them.  This train had many cars, but each of the cars looked like the cars on trains that carried animals or something like that.  As the train came to a stop, the soldiers moved forward to open up the doors of the cars.  Once that task was completed, the soldiers, with their guns ready, began forcefully ordering the families to move forward and get into the waiting cars.

Hannah and her family moved quickly to the train car that had stopped in front of them.  Everyone around them was in a state of shock, panic, and disbelief by this point.  Many of the women and teenage girls were sobbing quietly.  All of the men were wrapping their arms around their families as though that act alone would shield them from the terrors that were to befall them. 

Hannah and her family were one of the last families to embark on their train car.  It was because of this that Hannah was able to be right by the door of the car.  Her grandmother was standing behind her holding tightly to her hand.  In fact, as Hannah looked around their cramped quarters she noted that there was not one place to sit.  There were so many people crammed into their car that it was even doubtful that anyone would even be able to attempt to sit down.  Everyone was standing and just waiting.  Hannah glanced out the door and watched as the general once again walked down the line of train cars.  He briefly looked into each car before he instructed the officer next to him to shut the door.

As the general reached Hannah’s car, he stared at her for the longest time and then he finally speaks.

“So little one you want to know where your new home is?” the general remarked to Hannah in a crisp, harsh, German accent. “You and those like you are going where you deserve.  Your new home is Auschwitz.”

Hannah’s grandmother stiffened behind her and her parents both gasp.  The general gave Hannah a smirk and a look of pure disgust then he pulled the door of the train closed on Hannah’s face. The whistle of the train blows signifying its immediate departure.  As the train lurched forward, Hannah still stood before the closed door of the train car and just stared.  It was in that moment that she came to the profound understanding this train was not taking her family to a new beginning.  This train is taking her family to the beginning of the end.

© Copyright 2018 Kimmer. All rights reserved.

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